New food rules ‘ignore reality’

Tuesday, 14th March, 2017

Burke Ward School canteen supervisor Samantha Turner displays the new canteen strategy. Burke Ward School canteen supervisor Samantha Turner displays the new canteen strategy.

By Kara de Groot

The state government has announced a new plan to encourage healthy eating at school canteens.

However some Broken Hill canteens are worried it doesn’t take into account the realities of regional and remote schools.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Education Minister Rob Stokes said the new plan would remove the current ‘traffic light’ system in schools, promoting freshly made foods and only allowing foods with a minimum 3.5 star Health Star Rating.

Minister Stokes said the new strategy would reassure parents that food sold in school canteens is healthy for their children.

“This is not about restricting choices, it’s about ensuring the choices of food available are healthy ones,” Mr Stokes said.

“This is a simpler, easier to understand approach that is consistent with Federal Government guidelines on healthy food.”

A Railway Town School canteen manager said her concerns centred on students accepting the healthy options.

“We can only try as we have with the policy already in place, I’ve made smoothies and yoghurts and fruit salads before and if the kids don’t want them they don’t buy them,” she said.

“They just sit there and we’re wasting food, and our school is only small and we can’t afford to waste food.”

Under the new strategy fruits, vegetables, salads, pasta and stir fries must make up at least 75 per cent of the menu, with ‘occasional foods’ making up the other 25 per cent.

Pies, sausage rolls and pizzas are counted as occasional foods, and can only be sold with a health star rating of at least 3.5.

A canteen manager from Central School said that she also has concerns about the viability of the required menu.

“Because we’re in a remote area we can’t always source a lot of the things that people over on the coast or other capital cities can source like fresh fruit and veg,” she said.

“We have to rely on our supermarkets and distributors and they often don’t have what we want.

“As canteen managers, we just do the best we can, all we can do is try.”

Premier Berejiklian said the new strategy would help address the nation’s obesity epidemic, however the canteen managers said that putting responsibility for healthy eating on school canteens wouldn’t address the cause of the problem.

“Schools are just a very small part of this, healthy eating has to start at home,” she said.

“It’s good in theory what they’re trying to do, but whether or not it takes off is another thing.

“At the end of the day all we can do is try.”

The NSW Healthy School Canteen Strategy will start phasing out the old ‘traffic light’ system over the next three years, with uptake compulsory by 2020.